Legislative Staff Remain In Limbo After Texas Supreme Court Declines To Overturn Abbott's Veto Of Funding For Salaries
Many of the people who are currently helping state lawmakers run the endless loop of legislative sessions this year are facing a lot of uncertainty when it comes to their own financial futures.
The Texas Supreme Court declined this week to block Gov. Greg Abbott’s veto of a part of the state budget, known as Article X, that pays for the salaries and benefits of more than 2,000 state workers. That includes legal counsel, administrators, clerks and a lot of folks in nonpolitical positions.
Abbott vetoed Article X as retribution for a group of Texas House Democrats walking out right before a final vote on a controversial voting bill during the regular session. The walkout denied Republicans in the House a quorum, so they were unable to hold the vote right before an important deadline.
“No pay for those who abandon their responsibilities,” he tweeted shortly after the walkout.
Rick Levy, president of the Texas AFL-CIO, says the group asked the Texas Supreme Court to overturn Abbott's veto because it was affecting the livelihood of state workers for political reasons.
“The governor basically used them as pawns in this,” he said.
But the court, which is made up entirely of Republicans, said state lawmakers currently "have the opportunity to vote to appropriate revenues to the legislative branch" during the ongoing special session.
The Legislative Budget Board said these workers will continue to be paid at least through the current special session that started Saturday.
What happens after that is up to the members of the Legislature, the Texas Supreme Court said in its ruling Tuesday. It said the issue is not between the governor and the Legislature.
“Rather, the principal dispute is among the members of the Legislature," it wrote.
Levy said the ruling denied thousands of workers peace of mind and that they are going to “continue to live under this cloud of uncertainty” as long the veto stands.
“Their lives are being directly affected by the governor’s action,” he said. “We have had folks tell us that the plans that they have made — whether it’s health care, whether it’s child care, whether it’s their families are pursuing other opportunities, whatever it is — that those are all have to be put on the back-burner because they just don’t know what the future holds.”
Abbott has included restoring Article X funding on the agendas of both special sessions, but Democrats have continued to deny House Republicans a quorum.
Levy said he’s calling on Abbott to restore the funding with “not strings attached” immediately.
“There is no reason not to do that,” he said.
If it’s left to lawmakers, Levy said they should take up Article X before any other business.
“It’s really frustrating to us that people who go to work for a living have to become the victims of the governor’s pursuit of this absolute power,” he said.